When an equine charter from South Florida touched down in New Orleans at about 11:30 Wednesday morning, a legitimate
pace in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby
Preview Day was all but assured.
Aboard the flight was Gainesway Farm’s Tempted to Tapit,
a Steve Klesaris trainee who broke his maiden with a front-running
victory by 11 1/2-lengths at Aqueduct in his most recent outing Jan. 18;
WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer – conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill
Mott – a Distorted Humor colt that was just off the early pace in his last
start Jan. 31 at Gulfstream before drawing clear for a 1 3/4-length score; and
Paul Robsham’s Discreetly Mine – trained by Todd Pletcher – a
homebred son of Mineshaft who was unable to join up with the early
leaders in his last start in Gulfstream’s Spectacular Bid Stakes Jan. 9 after
bobbling at the start and then getting bumped on the turn to finish fourth.
“Tempted to Tapit doesn’t have to have the lead,” said
trainer Steve Klesaris, speaking from the Fair Grounds barn area as he
awaited the arrival of his horse from the airport. “However, he is tactically
very quick. Where he’s going to be placed – that will be up to the jock (David
Cohen). We’ll leave that in his hands.”
Asked about jockey Cohen, probably unfamiliar to most Louisiana racing fans,
Klesaris said, “He’s an exceptionally good rider and he’s having a very good
year in New
York where he is second to Ramon
Dominguez in the standings up there.”
Regarding Risen Star Stakes Longshots Saturday
Can Mountain Justice – a horse who has never won
over a dirt surface – prevail in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes after
being dismissed at 20-1 in the morning line for the race that serves as Fair
Grounds’ final designed tune-up for the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 27?
Handicappers who believe in the turf-to-dirt angle would
say the sophomore colt by 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex
should not be overlooked.
“I am living and hoping that such a (turf-to-dirt) scenario
will play out,” said trainer Andrew McKeever, who saddled
Charlotte Musgrave’s Diamond Tycoon to win last season’s Grade III Fair
Grounds Handicap. “I know we’re throwing him in the deep end of the pool here,
but his pedigree is totally dirt and he’s been working on it very well this
Mountain Justice breezed a half-mile in 50.40 Tuesday
morning at Fair Grounds after working a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Feb.
2. The Kentucky-bred bay will be making his seasonal bow in the Risen Star
after finishing second in a one-mile $50,000 optional claiming grass test here
in his last start Dec. 28.
“My exercise rider John Byrne, who galloped Diamond
Tycoon for me, is particularly impressed with the way
Justice has been working on the dirt,” said McKeever Wednesday morning during
training hours. “He says that the horse is really handling it well. (Mountain
Justice) is owned by Charlie Moore and a few of his friends from Lexington.
They are longtime racing fans but this is the first horse they have ever owned.
I believe their stable name of Blu Shu is a U.
Agave Racing Stable’s Random Move, trained by Michelle
Lovell, is an even longer shot at 30-1 in the Risen Star morning line, but
Lovell offered some optimism concerning her colt’s chances to show a good
“We claimed this horse in his last start (a 2 1/4-length
victory in $50,000 maiden claiming company Jan. 16) and we think he’s going to
turn out to be a really good claim for us,” said Lovell Wednesday morning of
her colt by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. “Sometimes, with
three-year-olds, you can literally watch them improve day by day, and that’s
what this horse has been doing. We don’t know exactly how good he’s going to
be, but this race Saturday is a good place to find out. We hope he runs well
like we think he might. I’d be very happy if we could finish on the board with
him in this race and then take it from there.”